Homer & Langley
2 journalers for this copy...
Anyway, I picked this up down at the used bok store in Kona, and am really enjoying it. I love the period NYC setting, the description of life blind, and the distorted sense of time that Doctorow has applied to this story, which is very very loosely "inspired" by the real-life brother/hoarders who died in 1947.
"I admit to feeling at secret times, usually just before falling asleep, that if one held to conventional bourgeois values he could read the Collyer brothers as end-of-the-line. Then I would get angry with myself. After all, we were living original self-directed lives unintimidated by convention -- could we not be a supreming of the line, a flowering of the family tree?
Langley said: Who cares who our distinguished ancestors were? What balderdash. All those census records, all those archives, attest only to the self-importance of the human being who gives himself a name and a pat on the back and doesn't admit how irrelevant he is to the turnings of the planet."
I've been fascinated by the Collyer brothers' story since I first heard of it, and have read several books based on or inspired by them; Ghosty Men, for example, is a biographical work comparing the author's compulsive-hoarder family member to the brothers. Looking forward to reading Doctorow's fictionalized account, as it's so intriguing to speculate on what people are thinking when they've allowed their lives to get so out of control...
Later: Haunting, evocative story, with lots of impressions of life in New York through the decades - though I was startled to find some references to events that occurred long after the real-world deaths of the Collyer brothers! Doctorow speculates on how they might have reacted to television, to the moon landing or to the Summer of Love, and does it so deftly that I had to look up the facts to reassure myself that they had not actually lived through those events...
Among the most touching parts of the book for me: near the end, as narrator Homer sits alone wondering where Langley is, he recalls their childhood in the then-elegant house, with room to run and play: "And when I lost my sight he read to me."
Thanks for sharing this unusual novel!
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
[NOTE: the 2010 BookCrossing Unconvention in Boston is coming up soon, August 13-15; if interested in attending, this forum post has information and a link to the convention web site. If you can't come for the whole weekend, you're welcome to attend individual events - see the convention web site for contact info if you have questions. And even if you can't attend at all, watch for lots of BC books to be released in the Boston area that weekend!]